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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #20 - Fannie Vick Brooks: She was a Chairwoman

This is another article for the 52 Ancestor Challenge which was put on by Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small.

For this week’s Ancestor Challenge, I chose my Great-Great Aunt Fannie Vick Brooks.  Aunt Fannie was born around 1887 to Thomas and Easter Exum Vick in Fremont, North Carolina. There isn't a lot of oral history about Aunt Fannie however, someone once said that Fannie moved to Washington, DC and was able to buy herself a home but she never married.  Well my research discover otherwise. 
1920 Census for Fannie Vick Brooks
In 1920, Fannie was indeed living in Washington, D.C. with her 14 year old Great Niece, Emma Fuller.  Fannie was listed as a 28 year old widow renting a home on 9th Street, NW. Her occupation was described as a “Chairwoman" for the Pullman Station and her pay was based on wage worker scale.  I don't know what a Chairwoman did but perhaps this was a job that a lot of women could fill. In fact, Aunt Fannie lived amongst other Chairwomen and laundresses, chauffeurs, cooks, porters, clerks, teachers and janitors. I believe Aunt Fannie must had been a very confident and a very fearless woman because she was living in the “big city” by herself with a teenager.  

I did not find Aunt Fannie on the 1910 census and she's wasn't living in North Carolina or Washington, D.C. under the Brooks or Vick surname.  She was MIA during that year which leads me to a few questions.  Who and when did she marry and when did her husband die?  I didn't see any other families with the surname Brooks living nearby or I would say that she was living near her "in-laws."  

1930 Census for Fannie Vick Brooks

By 1930, Fannie was still living in Washington and she had done very well for herself. She owned a home valued at $7,000. Fannie was still a Chairwoman but her employer was listed as the U.S. Government. At first I thought that this could not be my “Aunt Fannie” because she was listed as the head of the house with three men described as “lodgers” in her home.  Well, what respectful Southern young lady would be living in a home as the lone female with three men.  But it was Aunt Fannie. How did I know? One of the lodgers was her nephew, Ashton Saunders.  Ashton was Fannie’s youngest sister, Lela’s son. 

1940 Census for Fannie Vick Brooks
1940 Census for Fannie Vick Brooks 
In 1940, Fannie was still a widow and the head of the house.  She had four lodgers including her nephew Russell Saunders. Once again her occupation was described as the Chairwoman and this time her employer was the Senate Office Building.  Aunt Fannie made $800.00 a week. Eight hundred dollars a week! Now that had to be a lot of money during the 1940s. For a single widow female, she was doing fine.  But still we don't know a lot about her such as when did she die and where was she buried?

I can't help but wonder what was Aunt Fannie's duties as a Chairwoman? Did she have to wear a uniform? Was there a Chairwoman association? If so, did the Chairwomen take group pictures?

A side note, in college, I had an assignment where I had to attend a congressional hearing. When I got on the elevator there was this lady who push the buttons for those of us in the elevator.  The lady was sitting in a chair. Could this be the answer to my questions? Were Chairwomen ladies who operated the elevators?

If someone who reads this post knows the answer to my questions, please don't hesitate to respond.  So until this mystery is solved, Aunt Fannie's story is to be continued.

1920 Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_211; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 199; Image: 292,
1930 Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: 298; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0220; Image: 164.0; FHL microfilm: 2340033,
1940 Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: T627_571; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 1-518,

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